Friday, September 30, 2011


As I was watching the ESPN documentary "Catching Hell",
the riveting story of how Steve Bartman single-handedly, according
to some, changed the course of the 2003 NLCS, I quickly asked
myself, "Is this about Bartman or Bill Buckner?" More than 20
minutes of the program was dedicated to the tragic tale of Buckner
and his blunder in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Even though
the story wasn't about him, it was about Buckner, which reminded
me just how pathetic the media can sometimes be, and how they
were in their despicable treatment of Buckner after his error against
the New York Mets. The error ended the game, but in Boston sports
lore, Buckner cost the Red Sox a championship, one that fans
and members of the media in that town and throughout the region,
thought was rightfully theirs.

Buckner became a scapegoat, punch line, and punching bag for
all the miserable souls in New England who had watched their
team suffer year after year without a championship. He became
a symbol of the team's epic failures and a living, breathing, and
walking reminder of how the franchise always choked or
was seemingly cursed in their efforts to win the World Series
trophy, which in New England, is akin to the capturing the
Holy Grail.

It's unfortunate and sad that Buckner had to be cast unfairly as
a scapegoat, especially after what he had to endure in his
personal life. When he was 13-years old, Buckner's father
committed  suicide. When a father, mother, sister, or brother
takes their own life, it can rip apart a family, and open a gaping
wound that can never be stitched up, no matter how much time
passes. Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all
wounds. The unanswered questions and psychological impact
of it all can destroy a person for life. I'm sure Buckner found
himself asking himself why? Did I have anything to do with it?
Why did he leave all of us? Questions that remain unanswered
to this day.

This could have destroyed Buckner, but it fueled him. He
committed himself to being the best baseball player that he
could possibly be, and he became a pretty darn good one.
Buckner spent 22 years in the major leagues, won a batting
title, had a .289 lifetime average and accrued 2,715 hits.
That's more than Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, and all but
59 players in the history of the game. But after his error
in the '86 World Series, nothing Buckner  accomplished
really mattered. The image of his blunder was burned into the
consciousness of fans and media throughout New England.

After Buckner threw out the first pitch to start the 2008 season,
which was a highly-emotional event, the former Red Sox
first baseman held a press conference. Teary-eyed and on
the verge of becoming unglued, Buckner said that he had
to forgive the media, not the fans, in order to really move
on in his life. And he did, which in many ways, is really
sad. A man makes an error playing a kids game and he
has to live with the pain and shame that the media in
New England thrust upon him. They wrote about him,
mocked, and degraded him as if he weren't a human being.
They buried a career that was just 285 hits from being
enshrined in the Hall of Fame. No town creates a scapegoat
better than Boston and they had one of epic proportions.
And it is sad how they treated Buckner, really sad.

Everybody in New England kind of  lightened up on
Buckner after the Red Sox won two World Series titles
in seven years, but after suffering the biggest collapse
in baseball history, fans in the region are back to being
the same miserable souls they were until they won
it all in 2004. The Red Sox have a new scapegoat in
Terry Francona and that big bus is back in motion, running
over a lot of people who had a hand in the team's
monumental meltdown. Even Buckner's name is being
tossed around again. He appeared in "Curb Your Enthusiasm"
in early September when the Sox had a nine-game lead.
They started to collapse the day after Buckner made the
catch his life, saving a baby from an unhappy ending.
Unfortunately, Buckner couldn't rescue the Sox from
hemorrhaging to their own death.

Imagine what is going through Steve Bartman's mind
as he continues his stay in hiding, almost disappearing
into thin air in this world of cellphone cameras, Internet,
and paparazzi. The fans and media in Chicago are
even more pathetic than the ones in Boston. They still
blame a fan, someone who wasn't even playing, for
the Cubs misfortune.

Think about it. The Cubs were leading 3-0 and were five outs
away from going to the World Series. And they blame a fan.
Not a player, but a fan. A loyal Cubs fan who just wanted to
catch a foul ball. It didn't matter that Alex Gonzalez booted a
routine double-play ball that would have gotten the Cubs out
of the inning. Everybody in Chicago, fans and media alike put
the Billy Goat horns on Bartman, just as the ones in Boston
did to Buckner. How sad. How very sad is that? Bartman, like
Buckner had his life changed forever and he has to live
with taunts, criticism, and pain that few of us can imagine
living with.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Sweetness. Rarely has a nickname suited an athlete more perfectly
than the one given to Walter Payton during his college days at
Jackson State. Payton was a kind, gentle, and humble man, who
morphed into one of the most electrifying and fascinating players
the game has ever seen. He could vault over lineman and land
untouched into the end zone.

Payton would sometimes bury his helmet between the numbers of
250lb linebackers and turn them into road kill on the way to a
65-yard  touchdown run, which he sometimes accentuated with
the straight-legged kick of the leader of the drumline as he
waltzed into the end zone.

Payton kept on running until he earned a place into Pro Football's
Hall of Fame. He was, is, and always will be the face of the
Chicago Bears. But Walter Payton died too soon, the victim of
cancer, an opponent he couldn't outrun, run over, over give one
of his patented stiff-arms to. Bears legendary coach Mike Ditka
called him one of the greatest people he had ever met. The
NFL named its Man of the Year award after Sweetness, an
honor that is coveted by every player in the league.

Now, 12 years after his death, Jeff Pearlman is showing off
Payton's ugly blemishes. In his book, "Sweetness: The enigmatic
life of Walter Payton", set to go on sale October 5th,
Pearlman paints the picture of an icon who abused painkillers
after his career, talked about suicide, and had an uncomfortable
marriage. Pearlman, a talented and detail-obsessed writer, has
become an expert in painting people in a bad light. He was the
scribe that John Rocker brought along for that fateful ride on
the 7 train in New York City and decided to spew all those
ugly comments that offended every ethnic  group and homosexuals
throughout  the world. Rocker was  a bad guy, but he never
recovered  from Pearlman's portrayal of him in that issue of
"Sports Illustrated."

Pearlman's revelations shouldn't really shock anybody. After
seeing Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Magic Johnson,  and even
Mickey Mantle exposed over the years, nobody is really surprised
by anything anymore. Superstar athletes are human like the rest
of us, sometimes filled with demons and hardships just like
the average Joe.

Payton abused painkillers? Add him to the thousands of current
and former NFL players who've had that same problem.
Remember Brett Favre? He almost died from them. Walter
Payton played 13 years in the NFL and never missed a
game. He had 10 seasons in which he carried the ball more
than 300 times. And he did it while playing on one of
the worst surfaces in the NFL. The turf at Soldiers Field
was akin to playing on concrete.

His offensive line during his early years in Chicago was akin to a
sieve and Payton paid  for it. Sweetness was not a big man. He
had massive thighs, a  ballerina's waist, and the biceps of a young
Arnold Schwarzenegger, but was listed at 5'10, which was probably
his height in his make-shift platform shoes which he used when
running up  hills during his grueling and legendary off-season
workouts. His  body took an incredible amount of abuse during
his NFL career and the pain he suffered didn't go away when he
hung up his cleats. Payton needed something to cope, and
painkillers, apparently were the answer. Not really surprising, is it?

Pearlman writes that Payton talked of suicide. As tragic
as it may seem, a great deal of people in our society do
the same thing. Some athletes, as we've seen recently,
(Mike Flanagan, Hideki Irabu, Dave Duerson, Wade
Belak, and Rick Rypien) actually went through with it.

An uncomfortable marriage? There isn't enough space
to fit all the people in that category. Walter Payton was
human with personal problems that millions of people
in society face everyday. Pearlman can try to bring
him down as much as he likes because that's what writers
do to sell books and make the New York Times
best-seller lists, which means more money in their pockets.
Herschel Walker has a book and admits he had as
many personalities as Sybil. Sugar Ray Leonard has
a book where he says he was sexually abused. What?
We never heard of anything like that before. Exactly,
Books wouldn't sell if they covered the same things as
as everyone else. They have to be controversial and explosive.
We've seen it many times before, we'll see it many times

When I was 13 years old. our family moved to Lake
Forest, Ill. which is where the Chicago Bears have trained
for many, many years. Their football fields were just about in
our backyard, literally. My dad used to take me to see
Walter Payton practice. Payton was almost a god-like
figure, much like Ted Williams was to Red Sox fans.
The first NFL game I went to in person, Payton ran for a
then-record  275 yards. He did it with a 101-degree temperature
and a  serious case of the flu. I admired him, while many in Chicago
deified him. My grandmother, who came over from Ireland
and settled  in the south side of Chicago, was a racist. She didn't
like black people. But oh, did she love Walter Payton. She
worshipped him. People didn't see black and white when it
came to Payton, he was a legend and hero to many.

12 years after his death, people in Chicago and around
the country still worship Sweetness. He was loved by
all his teammates, respected throughout the league, and
admired by nearly everyone whom he touched. Many
people in the Windy City consider what Pearlman is
doing, blasphemous. However, his "findings" shouldn't
tarnish his legacy. Never. Payton was a great man, with
his own faults and demons. He's forever "Sweetness", a
person and player the NFL will never see again.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Evan Longoria's walk-off home run put the exclamation on
what was, arguably, the greatest night of baseball in regular
season history. Four games and two walk-offs decide
the final two playoff berths. It was simply unbelievable. The
heart pounding, jaw-clenching theatrics brought back memories
of one of the funniest moments I've ever had covering the game.

On September 27, 2008, almost three years to the day of
Longoria's home run monumental home run against the Yankees,
the Tampa Bay Rays celebrated their first-ever division title
and a trip to the playoffs. This downtrodden franchise that
had experienced nothing but failure and a name change, busted
loose in a way that few teams ever have when it comes to
champagne celebrations. There was the obligatory music
blaring at decibel levels that would bring down a building
and the goggles to protect the eyes of the players as they
poured the bubbly and beer all over each other like the kids
in the "Bad News Bears."

But when you've been the doormat of baseball for so long, playing
in a city where people still don't know a major league
franchise resides there, well, let's say there are no boundaries
when it comes to partying.  This clubhouse was like "Animal
House". The only thing missing was Dean Wermer's wife
making out with the players. It was off the hook wild.

During the celebration, I crossed paths with Longoria
and asked him for an interview. He was already a little
buzzed because the team actually finished their game against
Detroit, went to dinner, then came back after learning the
Yankees had lost to the Red Sox in a rain-delayed game,
giving the Rays the division title. Longoria obliged. What
happened next was pretty funny.


Grant Balfour, then a reliever for the Rays, gave me a shower that
I've never quite forgotten. The beer he doused me with was so cold,
it could have been kept on ice since the birth of their franchise
in the  '90's. I was cryogenically frozen. Ted Williams corpse
in the tube in that Arizona laboratory never reached the temperatures I 
experienced that night. My cameraman did a phenomenal job of
zooming out while the near-frozen liquid was pouring down
on my scalp and neck. I wanted to scream and say,
"WTF!?",  but didn't. I was proud of the way I kept my composure
during the interview,  especially since my scalp was screaming
in pain and what little brain I have, was not exactly comfortably

As Longoria was rounding the bases on Wednesday night, my thoughts
turned to that day back in late September of 2008 and I wondered
which reporter might get a shower and a brain freeze like I did that
crazy night in Detroit.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


With the premiere of "Moneyball," the Red Sox riveting collapse,
and another NFL weekend, it was easy to miss the incredible mission
that Diana Nyad started at 6pm on Friday in Cuba. The 62-year
endurance swimmer jumped into the water to begin her goal of
swimming 102 miles to Florida. 102 miles through shark-infested,
man-o-war stinging jellyfish, and whatever lies the beneath the
surface of the waters of the Florida Straits. Nyad is doing all this
without a cage to protect her. It's a true open-water swim.

Think about this for a second. A 62-year old woman swimming
for more than 40 hours through elements that are best described
as vicious. Swimming through the Florida Straits when it's pitch
black out, knowing there are a lot of creatures below the surface
that can end your mission, not to mention your life, is downright
scary. No sleep, no security, no hot showers....this is borderline nuts.

During Nyad's swim, she suffered stings from man-o-war
jellyfish that have supersized her face, arms, and neck. Nyad stopped
once because of it, boarding a boat to get medical treatment. This
altered the swim from a record non-stop one, to a staged one. But
really, does that matter at all when you're trying to swim 102 miles?
Hardly. Nyad has seen a curious oceanic white tipped shark cross
her path. A school of 10 whales appeared in front of her. And she's
already come face-to-face with jellyfish.

Talk about courage and mental toughness. This is the true test of
it. Nyad tries passing time by singing songs, but with the average
one lasting just over three minutes, that doesn't help very much.
The will to keep on going is off the charts. The drive to keep on
swimming when toxins from jellyfish stings are tearing up your
body is beyond words.

I was borderline obsessed with Nyad's swim. I got up at 4:30 this
morning to check her progress. 40 hours, 21 minutes, 30..31..32,
100,453...100,454...100,455 strokes. It was pitch black when I
checked my computer, I can't imagine what Nyad was thinking
or the pain she was enduring.

An alert came across the screen of my computer a few minutes
ago, Nyad's quest to swim through the Florida Straits was over.
Doctors warned that more stings from jellyfish could cause death.
It was over. More than 40 hours, 50 miles,  and 100,000 strokes
and Nyad was done.

Critics will say that Nyad failed again. She had tried the same
swim when she was 28-years old and did not finish. Nyad attempted
the journey once again in August. Once again, she stopped, this
time because of an 11-hour asthma attack. Today, Nyad stopped
because the stings were just too painful and too dangerous.

However, Nyad did not fail. She is a true inspiration to all those
who say, "I can't". She is a hero to all those who say, "I'm too
old, too weak, and not talented enough." She is someone to be
looked up to her for her iron will and determination. She should
be admired for her persistence, courage, and dedication. Nyad
may have stopped, but she did not fail.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


"Moneyball" is brilliant. It's not easy to turn a movie about baseball
and the implementation of something called sabermeterics into
a blockbuster hit, but Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour-Hoffman,
and a cast of actors who deliver spot-on performances, deliver like
Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning of a pressure-packed, can't-
look-til-it's-over game.

This film is easily one of the best of the year and instantly deserves
its place among the best baseball movies ever made. If you're
a casual baseball fan, you may become addicted to it as you are
Facebook after seeing "Moneyball". If you're a baseball junkie
who gets a rise out of on-base percentages, WHIP's, and OPS's,
then you will  probably see this movie twice in a week. It's
that good.

What makes the movie all the more impressive is the detail
in which the producers go through to make the baseball
scenes incredibly realistic, which is hard to do. Remember
"Bang the Drum Slowly"? Those actors couldn't make their
high school baseball team.  "Field of Dreams" was phenomenal
but they had Shoeless Joe Jackson,  one the greatest pure
hitters in the history of the game, if not one of its most polarizing
figures, hitting right-handed when he was actually a lefty.

The actors playing David Justice, Scott Hatteberg, and
Chad Bradford, were so similar to the players with their
appearance and mannerisms, it was scary. Even the guys
playing Mike Sweeney and "Everyday" Eddie Guardardo
were so good, I wondered if the former major leaguers
had come back for cameos.

Only the most astute baseball fans notice how Tim Hudson
wears hit hat so low that you can barely see his eyes. That
was spot-on in the movie. David Justice and that little flick
with the leg kick? Carbon copy in the movie. Seymour-Hoffman's
impersonation of Art Howe was scary good. Howe might
be a little upset with the big boiler (gut) Seymour-Hoffman
had because the former A's manager was thin and good shape, but
that was the only thing that was a little off.

Pitt, who admittedly, doesn't like baseball very much, puts
on a performance that is worthy of an Oscar in his portrayal
of Billy Beane, the A's general manager who tries to reinvent
the game by using stats to find and use undervalued players
whom nobody else wants.

"Moneyball" has some LOL lines throughout the film. Baseball
and the characters in it, usually provide enough great material
for a sit-com, but "Moneyball" took it to the next level. During
a meeting with his old and crusty scouting staff,  Beane (Pitt)
was trying to find player to replace Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon,
and Jason Isringhausen. Scouts were throwing out names of
players who might and might not be candidates. In describing
one player, the scout said, "His girlfriend is only a 6, so that
means he doesn't have any confidence."

The A's and their $41 million dollar payroll, or about $7 million
dollars less than what the Yankees are paying A-Rod and Derek
Jeter, come close to "reinventing" the game and getting to
the World Series. "Moneyball" did change the way a lot of
general managers scout and put together their teams. The Rangers,
Rays, Red Sox, Indians, and Padres, are all proponents of
"Moneyball". Billy Beane's theory has had a definite impact
on the game. Pitt's performance and the filmmakers expertise
puts "Moneyball" in a class all its own.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Do you ever feel like certain events in your life could make for a good
sitcom? That's kind of how I felt when I showed up for the Toughman
Triathlon in suburban New York on Sunday. I picked up my registration
packet, and other than my name and address, there was a note highlighted
in neon yellow which read, "WEIGH IN!". I was like, seriously, I have
to get on a scale and weigh in? Because I was in the Clydesdale division,
reserved for those 200 or more pounds, my weight had to be certified.
42 athletes out of 1,000 were in the big and fat division and we actually
had to get on a scale. Nice. For the record, I was 236lbs, or 10 pounds
less than when I started training in earnest for the 70.3 mile event.

When I went to unload my Jeep of all the equipment needed for the
swim, bike, and running events, I had an uneasy feeling come over me,
the kind you get after checking and double-checking your list, but still
feel like you forgot something. Then, all of a sudden, I was like John
Belushi in "Animal House" when he discovered he accidentally killed
the horse in Dean Wermer's office. "Holy S-h-i-t! Holy S-h-i-t!" My
sneakers were missing. That's kind of like Derek Jeter forgetting to
bring his glove for a baseball game. What the hell was I going to do?
I couldn't go home and get them. The mall wouldn't be open until at
least 11am and I didn't even know where the hell it was. What a dope!
I had to get creative so I decided to size up all the volunteers at the
event to see if any had a jogging shoe that was a 10.5. Yeaaaaah. I'm
trying to focus on this event and now I have to worry about getting a
pair of shoes. I found a kid who was a freshman at Iona College. He
had a pair of maroon and yellow Nike Livestrong shoes. They were
size 10, but I didn't care. I gave the kid a $70 check. I'd worry about
the fit when I started the run.

With my mind somewhat at ease, I got ready for the swimming portion
of the event, a 1.2 mile leg in the Hudson River, which after all the storms,
looked like Chocolate milk. Oh, well, if you sign up to swim in the Hudson
you have to expect dirty water, drift wood, and even corpses. It is what it
is. Open water swimming is nothing like training in a pool. I describe it
as swimming in a blender. Arms, legs, feet, elbows, and heads everywhere.
It's like roller-derby in the water at the start.

My goal was to start out slow, get my breathing settled, and concentrate
on my strokes.  I started out slowly and that was about all I accomplished.
My heart rate was too fast and I struggled to catch my breath. This
wasn't good. I got  elbowed a few times and was kind of disoriented. I
had to do breast stroke for about 10 seconds to get my bearings again.
Once I did, I settled in and got the cadence of my stroke going. I finished
the 1.2 mile race in 36:02 which is not a bad time.

I really wasn't in any hurry to get through the transition from the swim to
the bike, which required me to take off the wetsuit, put on gloves, helmet,
and shirt for the bike. My only goal was to lower my heart rate to get ready
for the 56-mile journey through the rolling hills of Hudson Valley, New York.
I wasn't going to win the race, so I wanted to make sure I didn't rush
through things getting out on the bike.

The bike ride was challenging but fair. I had done a half-marathon in
Middletown, CT last June and the hills were ridiculous and brutal. This
ride was smooth  and solid, for me at least. One mile into the race, I
witnessed a nasty wreck  between two cyclists. One rider ended up
on his back, stunned and with a nasty case of road rash. At the 32-mile
mark, a girl was sitting on the side of the road crying because her tire
had blown out. That's my biggest fear, blowing out a tire during the race.
You just pray you don't run over a sharp object and then have to change
a tire with your heart rate blasting and your brow dripping with sweat.
I finished the 56-mile trek in a personal best of 3:29.45. And I celebrated
mostly because I got through the race without popping a tire.

As I got to the transition area, I was just hoping and praying that
those shoes that I bought from that college kid, weren't going to be
too tight and cause me to have miserable blisters. The shoes were snug,
but they were light and felt pretty good. I didn't even know if they
were actually running shoes. They sure didn't have a lot of cushion.
But they were a lot better than running 13.1 miles in my bare feet. I
started brutally slow in the run, trying to stretch out my legs after 3.5
hours on the bike. I felt pretty good and strong. My sister, Kara, sent
me a note before the race for inspiration. It read:

       "It doesn't matter how slowly you go, just as long as you do not stop"

I don't know if Confucius ever did a triathlon, but those words stuck in
my head. I made it my goal NOT to stop, no matter how big the hills were
or the pain I was experiencing. The 13.1 mile run was a nice layout that
included streets and trails that led us by the Croton Dam which was a
spectacular site. I did not stop. Not once. I was also dedicating this race
to Brian Bill, A Navy SEAL from Stamford, CT, who was killed recently
while on a mission. There was no way I could stop. This guy used to
do Ironman Triathlons for breakfast before going on mission. He was as
tough as they come. A man of great courage and bravery who sacrificed
his life protecting our country and its freedom. I would not stop, I could not

As I came down the last mile of the 70.3 mile journey, I couldn't help but
think how much I enjoyed the entire day. The 4am wake-up call, the
weigh-in, having to buy shoes from a college kid, the frenetic swim, the
long bike ride and run. And all the pain gave way to pleasure, knowing
that I accomplished a goal and could finish in honor of Brian Bill, a
military man who could never fulfill his great promise. A life cut down at
the age of 31, with so much accomplished, yet so much left to conquer.

I finished in a time of 6 hours and 29 minutes. I didn't enter to win,
just to finish and enjoy the challenge. In all honesty, my training
was sporadic, at best. This was more about will than skill. 10% of the
race was about talent, but it really doesn't take much talent to run,
bike, or swim. We all can do it. 90% of the race was about persevering
through the pain and not giving up. That's what I'm most proud of.
Going the distance for Brian Bill and never stopping, no matter what.

Since the day started like a sit-com, it was only fitting that it ended like one.
After my 6 and half-our endurance event, I went back in the chocolate river
known as the Hudson. It was chilled just right and I stayed in to lower
my body temperature and cool off my joints. When I was pulling out out
of the parking lot, my Jeep was blocked by none other than a "Mister Softie"
Ice Cream truck. LOL. Larry David wasn't around but that giant vanilla
cone with chocolate sprinkles was. Man, the Fat Guy would've certainly
loved it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


When I plunge into the less-than-pure waters of the Hudson River on Sunday morning at 7:20am,
it will mark the beginning of the 70.3 mile Toughman Triathlon. Over the next six hours while
in the water, on a bike, and running the open roads of suburban New York, a million things are
sure to go through my mind as I try to complete this brutal test of endurance. But there will be one
person who will occupy most of my thoughts.

Brian Bill was a Navy SEAL who was killed on August 6th while on a mission in Afghanistan. He
was part of the elite, SEAL team 6, the unit that hunted down and killed Osama Bin Laden. Bill, a
Stamford, CT. native, was well-aware of the dangers and possible outcome when he signed up to
be in the military. He accepted it because the opportunity to defend our country and protect its freedom
was vitally important to him.

Many of us say we love our country, but how many of us would really put our lives on the line to
protect it? Not many. Brian  Bill did, and he paid the ultimate price for it. I never knew Brian Bill,
but he is my hero. We grew up in bordering towns and our high schools were part of the same
athletic conference. But I had graduated long before he was even a freshman at Trinity Catholic High School. When word came down that Navy SEAL team 6 had killed Bin Laden, I read everything
I could about SEAL's and their mental, physical, and emotional toughness. I wrote about them
in one of my blogs, proclaiming them to be the "greatest team ever."

When I found out that Bill was one of the Navy SEAL's killed when the helicopter they were in during
a mission was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade, I was floored. This 31-year old man had
his whole life ahead of him. I studied his pictures and one of them showed Bill smiling, as if he knew
the world was his oyster and he could accomplish anything he wanted to. Bill had already received
his commercial pilot's license, was an accomplished mountaineer, spoke French, and wanted to be
an astronaut. I also read where he was a triathlete, completing several tough and grueling events.

Despite not knowing Bill, he has inspired me. He is pushing me to achieve all my goals. I'm doing
this Toughman Triathlon to honor him and his memory. Bill didn't get into the military or become
a Navy  SEAL for the personal glory. He was so unselfish, so brave, so pure, and so courageous.
He fought others, so we didn't have to. He put  his life on the line, so the people back home didn't
have to. He gave up his security and freedom, to make sure we didn't surrender ours.

I have the freedom to test my endurance and will in the Toughman  Triathlon on Sunday, September
11th, arguably the most significant day in our country's history. I'm dedicating it to Brian Bill, the
toughest  man I never knew.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


That life-saving catch by Bill Buckner in Sunday night's episode of
"Curb Your Enthusian" did more than just keep a baby from dying. In a
way, it gave new life to a tourtured soul who had part of himself killed
off during a reality show in 1986.

When Mookie Wilson's painfully slow dribbler went through Buckner's
legs in the 1986 World Series, he became the biggest goat in the, then-
bitter and painful  history of Boston sports. Even though it was only Game 6
and the rest of the team botched a 3-0 lead to the Mets in Game 7,
Buckner's fate was sealed.

Fans in New England blamed Buckner for losing the World Series,
the weather, and the reason they never got laid in a bar filled with
naked girls at Sonsie's on Newbury Street. It was "Buckner Sucks,"
"He pulled a Buckner" and "I hate Billy Effin Buckner". Ernest Byner
never caught as much heat for fumbling away the Cleveland Browns
chance at going to the Super Bowl. Jackie Smith never had to endure
the shame and pain like Buckner after he dropped a sure TD pass
for the Cowboys in the Super Bowl XIII loss to the Steelers. Donnie
Moore didn't bother stick around very long after giving up that home run
to Dave Henderson of the Red Sox with two strikes and two outs
in the '86 ALCS. Instead of sending the Angels to the World Series,
Moore sent himself to an early grave, committing suicide a short
time later.

Bucker carried the pain and embarrassment from that chilly night
in New York 25 years ago. As much as he denied it, the mental
anguish had to be eating him up. People forget that Buckner was
a really, really good player. Over the course of 22 seasons, Billy
Buck hit .287 and accumulated 2,715 hits. 285 more and he's a
lead-pipe lock for the Hall of Fame. However, that was all washed
away when Buckner made that Big Error in the Big Apple.

But after last Sunday's performance with Larry David on "Curb
Your Enthusiam" don't we look at Buckner a little differently?
He was a good sport, getting abused once again by Boston
fans who couldn't forget that error in '86. A Jewish ritual wasn't
allowed to proceed until Bucker left. He missed a soft-toss
and watched an autographed ball from Mookie Wilson go
out the window and onto Madison Avenue. And finally, when he
came out of the hotel, he had to endure taunts from fans who
screamed, "Buckner sucks!". Oh, I know it  was only made-for-tv,
but that is what Buckner was forced to endure for many, many
years of his real life.

Boston fans softened up on Buckner a few years ago, after winning
its second World Series in four years, Buckner was asked to throw
out the first pitch on Opening Day. He delivered a strike and an
entire region seemed to exhale and give Buckner the pass they refused
to give for what seemed like forever. I guess when you reside in a sports
town with champions like the Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins, it's a little
easier to forgive.

Buckner had to endure more than any man should after making that
real-life blunder, it's kind of ironic that a life-saving catching in the world
of make believe, made us see Buckner in a whole new light.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Life is sometimes so good, we often forget how precious it really is.
We can be living the life one second, then, in the blink of an eye, it
can be changed forever. On August 28th, Tyler Hoog, a 17-year old
junior in high school was enjoying a sun-splashed afternoon in the
mountains of Colorado. He was four-wheeling with two of his high
school buddies, his father Michael, was in a Jeep ahead of him.

Tyler went off the road, flipped his Jeep, and it came crashing down
on its roof. Tyler's friends escaped with minor injuries, he wasn't
so lucky. Tyler suffered three fractured vertebrae and is paralyzed
from the shoulders down. In the time it takes you to snap your fingers,
Hoog's life has been changed forever. The lives of his family have been
forever altered. One second they were enjoying one of their
favorite pastimes, four-wheeling in the mountains, the next second,
the oldest son of Michael and Trenka Hoog, is struggling for his life.

"There's no way that anyone could ever prepare you for this," Michael
told a local paper. "The first 24 hours, you're really slammed by these
waves of anguish. You think about how life-changing it is for an entire
family and that's  devastating to consider. You kind of don't know what
to do."

If there is anyone who can figure out what to do, it's Michael Hoog.
I remember when he arrived on the campus of UNC in 1985 as one
of the cockiest freshman Carolina baseball has ever seen. He was
brash and had no fear. Hoog drove his Z28 from Colorado and arrived
with 1001 dimples on his car, having endured a hail-storm. The only
thing missing from car was a Titleist logo across the hood. Hoog didn't
care. As long as he had a tin of Skoal in his backpocket and boots on
his feet, it was all good.

As a pitcher, Hoog, a left-hander, didn't possess the talent of Josh
Beckett, but he was a gamer. I remember catching him when Hoog
was just freshman taking on the University of Miami. As a freshman, he
didn't care about Miami's mystique or anything else. Hoog battled and
battled and got a complete-game victory against the Hurricanes.

Hoog is using that same drive and determination to give his son, Tyler,
the best help he can get. He's already traveled across the country to
visit rehab centers in Baltimore and Atlanta.

"There's no telling what happens with rehab," he said. "The great thing
going for him, there's been incredible advances in spinal cord research
 in the past 10 years. He's only 17. In the next 10 years, who knows
what advancements will be made. He may come out of this thing."

Tyler idolizes his dad, who played in the Atlanta Braves organization.
He played first base like his father did in high school and wore number
17, the number his father donned at UNC. Tyler will most likely, never
play baseball again, much less even walk. His life changed forever in
the blink of an eye, which is so sad and so tragic. It just doesn't seem

Tyler is truly loved by so many of his classmates in high school and they are
rallying around him. They are raising money for his rehabilitation care which
is going to be long, arduous, and grueling. Kids at school are selling
"Hope 4 Hoog" wristbands for $3 and plan on conducting fundraisers
throughout the year. My former teammate is heading for the toughest time
of his life. Pray for him, pray for Tyler.

For information on how to support Hoog and his family, contact Travis
O'Hair at or 602-410-6021.

To follow Hoog's progress, visit